Duane A. Carr (1939-2020)

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Duane A. Carr (1939-2020)

In 2020, Duane “Duke” Carr left a gaping hole in the hearts of all of us at Blanchard Law when he left this world at the age of 81.

Our biggest regret is not having carried around a notebook or a tape recorder to take down some of the “Duke-isms” that would regularly fall out of his mouth – usually without having gone through any kind of filter. They were usually highly inappropriate anyway, so we’ll leave them to your imagination.

Whenever we needed the most pragmatic advice possible, Duke was where we turned. He always gave it to us straight. He was a realist, and when the world started to fall apart, he had a laser focus on getting done the things that needed to be done. He did it in a quiet, matter-of-fact way that always brought us comfort.

Duke loved his family. He adored his wife Verna deeply, and deciding on a gift or something to do for her was the only thing we ever saw him agonize over. He loved his kids and was crazy about his grandchildren. He once used a bunch of red rope files at the office to create a makeshift crib for one of his baby grandsons so he could babysit while getting a little work done.

Duke was also full of mischief. A smirk would crawl across his face just before he would share some provocative phrase just to get a reaction from his target. He always encouraged us to be as full of mischief as possible, too.

We can credit him for helping us to develop the fearlessness that a trial lawyer needs to have in order to survive. He taught us so much in our careers – both what to do, and what not to do. He always had a way of being able to get away with things that the rest of us never could.

In 2010, when Josh Blanchard joined our firm. Duke didn’t like him. Not one bit. It put Keeley in quite a pickle – particularly when Josh and Keeley started dating – and Duke almost walked away from the firm. But he hung in there for Keeley.

What Keeley never expected was that Josh was going to replace her as Duke’s “favorite.” Within a few months, Duke was finding his way into Josh’s office more and more instead of Keeley’s for the daily talks. Duke never could hear very well, and Josh was way more willing to shout inappropriate conversations with Duke than Keeley could tolerate, especially in public. For anyone who lunched in restaurants with Duke and Josh in the last ten years, we’re sorry, because you surely got an earful whether you liked it or not.

Duke was recently married and pursuing an undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University in the 1960s while working at Dow Chemical in Midland. Following graduation from CMU, he decided he would need an advanced degree to get ahead at Dow.

Dow transferred Duke to the sales department and sent him to Detroit, where he attended law school at Wayne State University at night for four years. He graduated and was sworn in as an attorney on November 27, 1970. He knew he wanted to return home to Montcalm County, and that’s where he began his practice.

It turned out that the choice to go to law school was a good one. Duke always got a lot of happiness out of the practice of law.

It was only two short years later, in 1972, that Duke was elected as the prosecuting attorney for Montcalm County. It is one of Duke’s fondest memories of practicing law. It was a great learning experience – it was demanding and challenging, and allowed him to do a lot of trial work.

The trial work was always something that Duke loved, even as he later moved into private practice. He saw huge changes along the way. The practice of law became much more efficient with technology and became more formal than it used to be, especially in some of the smaller counties.

Duke spent over 50 years in practice, but he loved watching where this firm was headed. He was always impressed that the lawyers in this firm were true trial lawyers, and they thrive on the same things that he did when he did trial work – the demands, the challenges, and serving their clients.

There isn’t a day that goes by that we all don’t think about Duke. We’d give anything for one more morning chat, one more lunch together, or just one more “Dukeism.” We were blessed to have his wisdom and influence in our firm for 15 years, and we’ll continue to carry that with us daily.